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Korean lawyer in Japan awarded damages over disciplinary requests

The building that houses the Nagoya High Court is seen in the city's Naka Ward in this Sept. 30, 2019 file photo. (Mainichi/Shinichiro Kawase)

NAGOYA (Kyodo) -- An ethnic Korean lawyer was awarded damages by a Japanese court Wednesday for emotional distress after she faced hundreds of requests for disciplinary action over her support for public subsidies for pro-Pyongyang Korean schools in Japan.

    The Nagoya High Court ordered a group of people in Aichi Prefecture and elsewhere pay a total of around 1 million yen ($7,400) in compensation for their repeated requests that the Kanagawa Bar Association discipline her, upholding an earlier ruling by the Nagoya District Court and dismissing appeals from both sides.

    Presiding Judge Toru Matsumura rejected the group's argument that their requests for disciplinary action were not intended to racially discriminate against the lawyer, saying that they had used "strong language such as 'acts of treachery' in their condemnation."

    The lawyer "was made to feel fearful and ostracized for attributes she could not change. (The group's actions) violated her sense of honor and caused her emotional distress," Matsumura added in handing down the ruling.

    The lawyer had appealed for higher compensation, but Matsumura dismissed the appeal, saying that the amount was reasonable.

    According to the ruling, the president of the bar association in Kanagawa Prefecture issued a statement in 2017 calling for the provision of public subsidies to Korean schools in Japan.

    The lawyer was among those named in a blog criticizing this stance, with the association subsequently receiving over 900 requests for disciplinary action against her, demanding it "promptly correct acts of treachery."

    While the association decided against taking disciplinary action, a large number of requests for such action were also sent to other local bar associations across Japan as a result of the blog.

    A number of lawyers have sued those requesting reprimand, with many courts ruling in favor of compensation.

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